Protect loved ones from COVID-19 over the holidays: Ottawa’s top doctor

OTTAWA — With the Christmas season getting underway, Ottawa’s medical officer of health is urging people to avoid crowded places and close contact with people outside your household to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect loved ones over the holidays. 

And while the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered to health care workers in Ottawa this week, Dr. Etches says it will take “many months” to vaccinate a large segment of the population.

Dr. Etches issued a statement to Council on Friday outlining the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan and looking ahead to the holiday season. Ottawa Public Health reported 57 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

“While the various indicators tracking COVID-19 levels in Ottawa remain stable, our numbers are no longer declining,” said Dr. Etches.

“It only takes a small increase in the number of individuals’ close contacts to quickly lead to a significant rise in COVID-19 levels in our community. As we enter the holiday season, we need to continue to make informed decisions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the COVID-19 virus. Avoiding crowded places and close contact with people outside our households are most important.”

Ottawa Public Health is recommending people only celebrate the holidays with members of their household, and avoid travel.

“We must stay consistent, stay strong, stay focused in the weeks and months ahead,” said Dr. Etches. “We continue to ask that celebrations happen only with the people you already live with, virtually or physically distanced with anyone else, and that those who live alone can exclusively join one other household.”

The first health care workers in Ottawa’s long-term care homes were vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine this week. Dr. Etches says with the new vaccine available, “There is light on the horizon.”

“We are adding another layer of protection to our toolkit. Every single action to prevent COVID-19 transmission counts, and the next few months will require our patience and perseverance,” said Dr. Etches.

“The mask use, physical distancing, hand washing and staying home when ill are practices that will remain important layers of protection against the virus, including for people who are vaccinated.”

Dr. Etches tells Council that Ottawa Public Health and the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force will hold a “phased and scheduled vaccination campaign” to make COVID-19 vaccine available to everyone.

“However it will take many months before large segments of the population are vaccinated. We are confident that residents of Ottawa will keep doing their best to protect their friends, family and coworkers while the vaccinations continue,” said Dr. Etches.

The medical officer of health says the plans to administer vaccinations when more become available include vaccination logistics and locations, as well as the “most effective means to reach and inform all residents.”

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